WRITING: Testimony re: City asset lease agreements disclosure ordinance

Today I testified at the Chicago City Council Committee on Finance. Here’s the text:

Statement of Daniel X. O’Neil in support of the proposed City asset lease agreements disclosure ordinance.

Monday, June 1, 2009. 11:30 a.m., Council Chambers

My name is Dan O’Neil, and I am one of the co-founders of EveryBlock.com, a neighborhood news site serving 11 cities, including Chicago, where we are based.I ask you to support this ordinance, which calls for the City Comptroller to publish “ City asset lease agreements and accounting information” in the general course of business.

My job at EveryBlock is to work with city governments to uncover new data and to make it available in the most useful formats as possible. I’ve worked with city leaders– department heads, council members, technology developers, policy makers, and so on, in each of the 11 cities we cover.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that there is a great desire on the part of municipal leaders to share data, but they often don’t realize that the information they see every day as a part of their work– exactly the types of documents that we’re talking about today– actually contain valuable data that allows citizens to understand what the city is doing for them. There is a wide and growing array of tools that allow civic-minded Web developers to make data more searchable and ultimately more valuable in deciding what we want to do collectively as a city.

The idea of a publishing a “single accounting document, updated quarterly, that details the appropriations, investments, interest income earned, and future budget year distributions of City asset lease agreements”, goes a long way toward this goal.This is sound policy, and I urge you to make it law.